In the fall of 1914 contracts were let for the building of Wrigley’s new building on Carlaw and excavations began. The London Standard kept track of Canadian developments for its British business readers:
Wrigley’s originally planned a three-storey factory to supply the growing demand for gum in the Canadian market. The Toronto building was modelled in part on the “mother plant” in Chicago.
By 1915, the Wrigley Company had constructed a large manufacturing complex in the Central Manufacturing District on Chicago’s southwest side. The Central Manufacturing district was similar to Toronto’s Carlaw Avenue albeit much bigger.
However, that demand skyrocketed with war broke out in the fall of 1914. The Company applied and got a permit for a bigger factory.
ADDITION TO WRIGLEY BUILDING APPROVED
$65,000 Carlaw Avenue Addition. The City Architect issued a permit to-day for an additional two storeys to the factory of Wm. Wrigley and company on Carlaw avenue. Estimated cost, $65,000.
Toronto Star, Dec. 30, 1914
By March, 1915, the original three storeys were well under way. That year the William Wrigley Jr. Company Limited sold its Canadian interests to a new company — the William Wrigley Jr. Company Limited of Canada with J. Allen Ross as President.
Construction of the South Wrigley Building, April 7, 1915. Library and Archives Canada.
This was a major building project and Wrigley’s was destined to become one of the largest employers in the Leslieville of that time. Those responsible for constructing the Wrigley Building were:
The Wrigley Building was completed in the spring of 1916. It was in the Beaux Arts style used for the Chicago factory. Chicago’s own Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue was built in 1921 as headquarters for the now international gum company with factories and offices around the world. Pract and Perrine, the architects for 245 Carlaw, were also responsible for the Palmolive Building across the street.
The Toronto (South) Wrigley factory is described in considerable detail in an article of April, that year. The article, from the trade journal, Construction, Volume Nine, Number 4, is reproduced in full below:
Gum was advertised as a health product, good for the teeth and good for the mind.
Gum sales soared during the First World War thanks to a well-thought out advertising strategy. Some of those advertisements are reproduced in the slide show below.
The Wrigley’s ads of the First World War were clearly marked to men. This was no dainty confectionary, but something a man could use to keep himself awake during a long night of sentry duty, chew to calm the nerves just before “going over the top” into battle, or even as a sterile would plaster to plug a bullet hole or other wound.
No Christmas box for a Canadian in the trenches would be complete without some Wrigley’s gum as this Eaton’s ad makes clear:
Labourers were hard to find with so many men away at the Front in Belgium and France. Wrigley’s had always prided itself on being a good employer and “showed its stuff” in the Great War by raising money for Canadian War Bonds and the Patriotic Fund.
It also paid well. When many firms only paid $1.75 a day, Wrigley’s paid more.
Managers realized that their workers were being hard pressed by inflation as the price of necessary items like coal soared. They responded.
In Wrigley expanded its Carlaw plant factory to 11,892 square metres by adding a new building north of the 1915-16 building. The new plant was finished in 1919. Pract and Perrine were the architects on the new building just as they were on its conjoined twin to the south.
North Wrigley Building, Dec. 5, 1916. Library and Archives Canada.
Palmolive site with Wrigley Bldg & Rolph Clark Stone background. Aug. 2, 1917. Library and Archives Canada.
The driveway and skywalk between the two Wrigley buildings on Carlaw Avenue.
In 1918 Wrigley Canada built a private fire hall, at 87 Boston Avenue, to service its factory.
After World War One, the soldiers came home. This advertisement below with a gleeful Wrigley sprite and a towering steamer reflects the widely spread belief that the First World War would be over soon and the “boys” would be home again, along with their habit of chewing gum.
A period of turbulence and distress followed Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Labour unrest spread across the country as pent-up demand for wage increases lead to strikes and, the biggest strike of all, the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. The returning soldiers found high unemployment and a housing shortage with escalating rents, driving the cost of living up and up. Employers were concerned not just out of benevolence, though that was undoubtedly a strong factor. They feared that workers would turn to Bolshevism and rise up against the existing order. The Canadian Manufacturers Association supported measures to build affordable housing and relieve poverty.
In Toronto, a Housing Commission was set up. H. H. Williams was the real estate agent who sold the City of Toronto properties on Carlaw Avenue as factory sites. He sat on the Board of the Housing Commission along with James Allen Ross, an American from Chicago, who set up Wrigley Canada in 1910 and was a Vice-President of the Company. During the Great War J. Allen Ross put his business interests aside to serve the Dominion of Canada on the Canadian War Mission in Washington, D.C. Frank A. Rolph, of Rolph-Clark-Stone, the Wrigley Building’s neighbour on Carlaw, also sat on the Housing Commission. The most famous member of the Commission and its Chair was Sir John Eaton. The Timothy Eaton Co. would soon lease space in the Wrigley Building for a small factory that specialized in making harness. James W. Woods, the other member of the Commission, was an Ottawa businessman and the descendent of Anglo-Irish army officers. In 1895 Woods began making and supplying everything a lumber camp needed — except food. He sold clothing, camping outfits and tools, etc. In 1900 he supplied the British government with canvas tents for the troops in the Boer War. One of the earliest and most important factories (est.1908) in the area near Carlaw was the Smart Bag Co. Ltd. on Logan Avenue. It became Woods Manufacturing Co. Ltd. which produced camping equipment and outdoor clothing. The company became wealthy furnishing equipment to the British and Canadian armies in World War I. His tent factory became the largest in the world. He diversified and was involved in realty, coal companies, shoe manufacturing, the Standard Explosives Company and a canvas bag company.
Like William Wrigley Jr., J. Allan Ross and others he gained from the Great War. But he also lost. His son, John Russell Woods, died September 16, 1916 sustained at the Somme, A Captain in the Coldstream Guards, he was only 21, and was buried in Méaulte, Picardie, France. The War Diary of the Coldstream Guards tells that on the day Captain Woods died, the First Battalion of that Regiment went into battle with 17 officers and 690 other ranks (sergeants, corporals and privates). Only three officers and 221 other ranks returned. It is too easy to discount the altruism of men like James W. Woods and other “captains of industry”.
Woods Manufacturing Company’s neighbour across the street at 405 Logan Avenue was the Canadian Chewing Gum Co. Ltd., maker of Chiclets, sewing up Leslieville’s reputation as “the Chewing Gum Capital of Canada.”
But when the war ended, gum sales fell, hitting all the manufacturers hard. J. Allen Ross, in a hearing on tariffs, explained the difficulties of operating a branch plant in Canada.
With excess space Wrigley’s rented out space to other manufacturers at its plant at 235-245 Carlaw Avenue. According to the 1921 City of Toronto Directory, William Wrigley Jr. Co. Ltd., gum makers leased space in their plant to:
A. D. Shoup Co. Ltd. (paper boxes)
British American Wax Paper Co. Ltd.
235-245 Dunlop Tire Rubber Goods Co (storage)
and the T. Eaton Co. (factory)
In 1923 the ground floor of the William Wrigley building was leased to Wrigley building leased to Dyment Limited, lithographers. (Globe, Jan. 15, 1923)
In 1925 gum sales began to pick up again.
In 1926 William Wrigley Jr. Co. Ltd. leased space to the firms below.
Delco-Light Co. of Canada Ltd.
Dyment Ltd. (window displays)
Diamond State Fibre Co. of Canada Ltd. (fibreboard)
General Fireproofing Co.
A. D. Shoup Co. Ltd. (paper boxes)
and Blachford Shoe Mfg. Co. Ltd.(see 1926 City of Toronto Directory)
In 1931 William Wrigley Jr. Co. Ltd. of Canada made an extraordinary move to stabilize the economy of Western Canada by using profits made through gum sales to buy up Canadian wheat.
Two years later, J. Allen Ross, president of Wrigley Canada, was able to report that gum sales were picking up again.
After the Second World War broke out, Wrigley sold all its gum production to the military while running an ad campaign asking people to remember their product and buy again when peace came.
Wrigleys’ gum was a standard item in the Red Cross parcels that went to Prisoners of War, saving many lives. The parcels were packed in special boxes made where Gerrard Square is today.
Wrigley’s was a good corporate neighbour and a good place to work through the decades after World War II, but by the early 1960s it needed more room to expand and to modernize its operations. In 1963 Wrigley Canada moved from Carlaw Avenue to a new plant on Leslie Street north of Eglinton. A number of different concerns occupied the building over the years.
In 1998 the Wrigley building was converted into condominium lofts. Wrigley Lofts opened with 79 units ranging in size from 300 to over 3000 square feet. This New York-style “hard loft” conversion was an immediate success, offering large units with everything its prospective condo buyers wanted.
original industrial windows
13.5′ foot ceilings
original concrete mushroom-shaped columns
polished concrete floors
and exposed pipes and duct work
Atria, also developer of the Izone Lofts and The Garment Factory Lofts, sold “raw space” in the Wrigley Lofts for about $100 a square foot and the new owners built each unit to suit their own tastes and needs. Therefore each unit is unique. Many of these lofts have metal spiral stairs leading up to master bedrooms. (www.alanrealestate.com/003_loftsEast.htm)
For more real estate views on Wrigley Lofts see:
In 2005 Wrigley’s Chicago factory was shut down and operations shifted to suburban Yorkville and Gainesville, Georgia.
In 2012, the City of Chicago produced a “Land Mark Designation Report” that leading to the designation of its own Wrigley Building as a designated landmark. To see that report go to:
From 2014, the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services proposed studying 181, 235 and 245 (Wrigley Buildings) for potential listing on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties. (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2014/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-72579.pdf)
There are currently only a handful of Heritage Designated properties within the Carlaw-Dundas area. To see the Toronto Heritage Register map go to:
To search the listing of Toronto Heritage buildings to to:
In December 2014, the Wrigley chewing gum factory in Chicago was demolished. Most of Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District factories have been demolished to make way for malls. Toronto’s Carlaw-Dundas area was also a “brown field”, an abandoned industrial area, and could have faced the same fate.
For more info and pictures of the 2014 demolition of Chicago’s Wrigley factory go to:
In 2014 Toronto Life named an apartment in the Wrigley Building “the Condo of the Week.” The asking price was about $770,000 for a two bedroom condo on the second floor. The units in the building are live-work spaces and highly sought after “hard lofts”. Many would-be buyers appreciate true loft conversions rather than new builds. The large spaces with their concrete mushroom columns, high ceilings, exposed ductwork, large windows and polished concrete floors are still very desirable. This unit was $1,800 square feet with two bathrooms and two bedrooms. (http://torontolife.com/real-estate/condo-of-the-week-245-carlaw-ave/)
Meanwhile, as the value and prices of the condos in Wrigley Lofts on Carlaw soared, the sales of gum dropped.
In 2015 as Wrigley planned to close its plant on Leslie Street, workers were interviewed about their experience working for Wrigley Canada. Most had good things to say about William Wrigley Jr. Co. The company offered good salaries and great benefits, a culture that prioritized workplace safety, and a high quality product that workers were proud of.
“Very safety focused. Very supportive management team. Great group of associates that really pulled together as a team, regardless of role or department.”
“Wrigley Canada is great place to work… safety of the workers is the first priority. But this company is to be closed by March 18, 2016.”
“Great place to work while it lasted. Worked there almost 11 years before they closed the doors. Great people and great hours.”
“Fun work place and good benefits. They all treat themselves as a family. But unfortunately this company will be closed next year. I have good memories working with associates and managements.”
“Fun place to work, great people and work mates. Everyone is like a family.”
“A pride to work in a world class company… Found a lot of friends-for-life.”
In 2016 Wrigley Canada closed down its Canadian factory on Leslie Street north of Eglinton and moved its operations to its plant in Gainesville, Georgia. 383 people lost their jobs. . In a statement, Wrigley said that it was “a tough decision.” Their statement explained, “Despite recent improvements in the gum category and increased productivity in our supply chain network, it has not been enough to offset declines in the gum category over recent years.” Wrigley Canada still has a head office in Toronto for sales, marketing, and finance. Wrigley is owned by Mars, Inc. which is better known for the Mars Bar®.
For more info about the closing of Wrigley’s Toronto plant, see: